As a Green Beret operating from fire bases with over 50 direct action missions in Afghanistan, as well as a CIA liaison officer, I defeated many high value targets. Then as a contractor I supplied nearly 1,000 linguists to our troops on the ground and executed intelligence contracts for the DOD over a 12-year period. So, to see the Chinese begin discussions with the Taliban to provide their support necessary to keep the United States out and assert control over the region feels like a kick to the face. This will leave the United States at an increased risk of attacks on the homeland and sentences to death thousands of men and women in Afghanistan who supported us.
Maintaining a strategic military presence in and around Afghanistan would have provided stability to the region and to the Afghan people, most of whom didn’t want America to leave. It’s a deterrent, not a continuous war, just as in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and yes, even Vietnam. Minimally, we should have maintained two strategic air bases, one in Kandahar and Bagram which cover the highest threat areas to Kabul. Ideally, we should have added two more; one in Herat close to the Iranian border and in Mazar-e-Sharif to the north. These bases are more than sufficient to maintain stability, require a small U.S. footprint, and allow for the collection and analysis of critical human intelligence.
Biden should have at least made the withdrawal condition-based, not a hasty quagmire stranding Americans. He should have listened to his generals, allies, and to now exiled President Ashraf Ghani and first evacuated the U.S. embassy and the linguists that faithfully supported U.S. forces for 20 years.
The timing could not be worse. The spring and summer is the fighting season when Taliban forces conduct most of their offensive operations. If Biden had waited until their non-fighting season, the Taliban would have retreated into Pakistan where they wait out the winter months. Instead, we have left Afghanistan when the Taliban is at peak strength across the country.
Biden is blaming the Afghan National Army (ANA) for falling to the Taliban after years of training. But the ANA was trained to integrate air support into their operations just as we do in the infantry and Special Operations Forces. Biden himself eliminated the maintenance and logistical support for both the Afghan fixed and rotary wing aircraft over a month ago, rendering those assets unsafe and grounded.
As you read this the Taliban is killing those believed to have ties to the U.S., including their family members. With our departure, tens of thousands of loyal Afghan supporters and their families face certain death. Just as dangerous governments always do, the Taliban have already started implementing gun control. They say that people no longer need firearms since they are there to protect them now. This is at the same time that we are watching the Taliban look more like our own U.S. soldiers, clad in modern body armor, night vision and our own rifles, all left behind in an unnecessarily hasty retreat.
Our pledge to help secure Afghanistan and empower Afghan women has been broken so I’ve personally taken it upon myself to help an Afghan interpreter named Saber who I used to employ. Saber was a heroic cultural advisor and interpreter for various branches of our military for 11 years, eventually targeted and almost killed by the Taliban. He was able to get a special immigration visa and is safe in the USA, but his family is still in Afghanistan. Saber has been on Sean Hannity twice this past week discussing their status. His mother has been stuck outside the airport gates, others in hiding, while one family member was just beheaded. I have been working to get his family the correct State Department paperwork, but it is government incompetence that has led to a constant changing of requirements. We have now gotten a couple family members out to Dubai, but many are still stranded in hiding.
But Biden, who was advised of the likely outcome, didn’t attempt to ensure the safety of the region, nation, or the Afghan people. Biden left them to die. A simple special immigration program, before our announced departure, would have given Afghans an opportunity to save their own lives, a policy America has previously employed since World War I. But Joe Biden ignored the advice of his own defense department officials and now Afghans are paying the price leaving China to fill the vacuum.
So where does that leave the security of U.S. citizens? Geopolitically speaking, the loss of Afghan air bases impacts our strategic capabilities in a volatile part of the world. Domestically with our wide-open U.S. southern border we are at an increased risk of being infiltrated by terrorists who can now start up all the training camps we destroyed years ago. Most immediately, there’s no doubt that the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS will try to slip their fighters into the wave of Afghan allies seeking refuge. This is at a time when we now have no way to vet anyone since the Taliban now control all the government records that existed.
The company I owned performed background investigations on more than 10,000 Special Immigration Visa applicants and over 500,000 other defense related applicants for numerous entities. Years ago, the State Department decided to eliminate polygraphs from the vetting process, alleging that it was an invasion of privacy and a possible violation of an individual’s human rights. As a matter of policy, the U.S. needs to return to starting this vetting process with polygraphs to avoid weeks or months of wasted investigations. As for today’s crisis, we must conduct polygraphs on all refugees looking to come to America or we are just further compounding our risk at home from Biden’s blunder.